THE SERPENT PAPERS by Jeff Schnader:
The Vietnam War is still the defining event of its generation. It created a rift between those who fought and those who protested—a rift which this novel aims to heal with rapprochement.
Cover Photo credits for The Serpent Papers: Columbia Daily Spectator/John Taylor Lewis & Andrew Farber
FROM THE FORMER PUBLISHER & PRESIDENT OF DUTTON BOOKS, WHO EDITED THE NOVELS OF ERNEST HEMINGWAY, JAMES BALDWIN & ROBERT LUDLUM:
FROM THOMAS FERGUSON, Former U. S. Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (for Presidents Bush & Obama):
“Literary circles will soon know the name Jeff Schnader, as his debut novel, The Serpent Papers, an intriguing, engrossing mosaic tale of relationships forged in a contentious and conflicted era, will certainly become a bestseller. This emerging master storyteller will have already made a significant and noteworthy contribution to historical fiction. A captivating read cover to cover, this book commands attention... It is a triumph!”
–Rob Stoller, Exec. Producer, Art In Motion
“I could not put The Serpent Papers down. I felt an urgent need to read because I wanted to see where the story took J-Bee. I was vicariously identifying with his existential search for the soul, for the epiphany, for the reason for being. It brought me back to my younger self.
I thought about this book for a month. The Serpent Papers finds the human soul. It is Schnader‘s gift.”
–Sandra Fluck, Founder & Publisher, bookscover2cover & THE WRITE LAUNCH literary journal
“The Serpent Papers will be enjoyed by readers who care about America. Jeff Schnader is a story teller and has created a story and a world that are engaging.
It’s a novel that is hard to put down.”
–Richard Nochimson, Prof Emeritus of English, Yeshiva U.
“So what is conscience? How can we live with it, be true to it, examine it every moment of every day? The Serpent Papers addresses these questions. Every page in this book is right in the intellectual wheelhouse. The war in Vietnam confronted all of us in our generation; it was like no other. We had to be true to our consciences, and that’s what this book is about. The pressure for us to define our allegiances was real and constantly present; moral lines were drawn. Each of us had to decide whether to fight this war or to resist the horror of it. The vivid and real characters in this brilliant, masterful book bring us right back to the days of that era when each of us had to take a stand. They remind us how our decisions—whether to follow our consciences or to ignore them—might make us murderers or Congressional Medal recipients.
“I loved this book. An important book, it is the best I’ve read in the past ten years.”
Michael D. Smar, M.D., Bronze Star Recipient
Combat Medic, US Army, 1st Infantry, Vietnam, 1968-69
“Just finished your book and I’m stunned by its intensity. Wow! Your writing is so vivid and beautiful. Every sentence painted a picture. I feel like I sleepwalked through the early 1970s, but your book allowed me to experience it with the depth that my emotional and cognitive immaturity stifled all those years ago. J-Bee’s internal struggle for identity and meaning was so powerful... You brought him to life and opened a window into a world that rings so true. Thank you for letting me in.”
–Janet Maurer, PhD
“The characters are very strong. The major idea of this novel is intriguing. The tensions between J-Bee’s background, his personal code, the thrill of campus life, and his relationships drive the story in a unique direction. The story is well written, exciting and full of insight; allusions and imagery enhance the experience. It is a book that makes me think; I imagine writing essays on it. The relevance to today's culture is obvious.”
–Aaron Kaiserman, PhD, Faculty, English Literature Department, University of Ottawa
“You have created wonderful & interesting characters. J-Bee’s evolution is convincing and moving. You have blended the political, the historical, the academic & the emotions & feelings of the times. This is a heady mix.”
–Editor & Former Book Publisher
“I certainly agree with Richard Marek that the writing is better than just about anything that comes in over the transom.”
–Editor, Book Editors Alliance
“In this engaging bildungsroman by Jeff Schnader, we become deeply immersed in the time of American life and culture during the war years 1971-1972, and in a place, Columbia University in the City of New York. Along the way, we learn of friendship, growth, and love, as The Serpent reveals more and more of the path toward living a good life.”
–James W. Oberly, Editor of *Budapest Blackout: The Wartime Diaries of Dr. Mária Mádi* (forthcoming, 2022), Professor Emeritus of History, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
“Praise for The Serpent Papers: This Vietnam-era novel vividly captures the pivotal time when young American men's futures hung in the balance. An unforgettable, paradigm-shifting perspective on the era!”
–Margaret Winslow, PhD, Professor Emerita, City University of New York, and published book author
TESTIMONIAL OF KENT STATE GRADUATE:
“I had the privilege of reading this book. I often reflect on the events that shaped our experiences & lives. I was not expecting to be personally drawn into the novel, but how could I have known that The Serpent Papers was going to stimulate my memories and emotions of being a student at Kent State University in 1971-1974? This book opened labyrinths that have been locked in my memories for fifty years.
“I have spent the past two weeks recalling the discussion and the kinetic atmosphere propagated by students, faculty, police, school administration and elected officials. I have wanted to reexamine and document this experience for my children and grandchildren for quite some time. Fabulous stuff—thanks, Jeff Schnader, for making it happen!”
–Steven Magida, 1974 Kent State University graduate
J-Bee, son of a military officer, is raised in a violent milieu during the 1960s. After his little brother is persecuted by bullies, J-Bee commits a retaliatory act of brutality, the nature of which scars him. When his best friend, Gilly, volunteers to fight in Vietnam, J-Bee—repulsed by his own violence—refuses to follow either his father or Gilly into the military. Instead, he matriculates at Columbia University in 1971, an era of counterculture, drugs and sex and rock ‘n roll, in order to seek his redemption.
While there, he is introduced to the mysterious Serpent, who recites in the campus café, and to the politically active Margo who schools him in anti-war politics and the virtues of peace. Although he feels loyalty to his best friend (Gilly) fighting overseas, he increasingly sympathizes with Margo’s rationale against the war. Torn between supporting the war or protesting against it, J-Bee’s paradoxical feelings are ignited when his friend Gilly, on furlough from Vietnam, visits him at Columbia. With ratcheting tensions and bullhorns leading students in protest, pro-war and anti-war factions collide in campus riots, and J-Bee makes the choice that defines his life, solidifying his outlook on violence.
Abruptly, something deep inside me—a ragged hairy beast locked away, chained for a lifetime to dungeon walls—was roaring, his sound percolating from the depths of my subconscious into my waking state. I felt him shake off his chains, stretch his arms and legs and burst forth from his shadowy cell. Stupefied, I felt life renewed. As cars and people danced down the street, I sat spellbound at the spectacular parade, consumed by love. I had magic within me, and though the people I saw were grotesque—striped, angular, dogfaced—they were magnificent, and I was the gifted witness. Enraptured, I feasted on beauty, grateful to be alive in such a vibrant, colorful painting. So abject yet so privileged amongst all living things, I sobbed to be gifted such sensual wonder.
Multiple chapters of this novel have been published in advance by the online literary journal THE WRITE LAUNCH (see: https://thewritelaunch.com/author/j-schnader/)
Jeff Schnader was at Columbia University in 1972 where he participated in sit-ins, marches and protests against the Vietnam War. He took part in demonstrations in front of Hamilton Hall where students were beaten by N.Y. Tactical Police in battle regalia. He graduated with a BA in physics.
His short story, “The Champion,” won first prize in the 2020 Annual Quills Contest, and he was a short-listed finalist in the 2021 Blue Moon Novel Competition for his novel, The Serpent Papers (see Author's Guild announcement: https://www.authorsguild.org/member-awards/jeff-schnader-wins-quills-creative-writing-contest/). Chapters of The Serpent Papers and, more recently, his short story, The Oma, have been published in THE WRITE LAUNCH (see: https://thewritelaunch.com/author/j-schnader/)
After graduating from Columbia, he received his medical degree (MD, CM) from McGill University with further work at Johns Hopkins. He recently retired as full Professor of Medicine after authoring over 50 scientific publications and chairing & speaking at over 130 national medical conferences. He was a frequent guest on the NPR's "Sound Health" and has been awarded for teaching and for editing a medical journal. He worked full-time in the Department of Veteran’s Affairs for 22 years, serving American war veterans, including those of The Vietnam War.